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Niger: Post-election period marred by violence, mass arrests and internet disruption

Authorities in Niger must launch an investigation into the death of two individuals, put an end to mass arrests and restore the access to internet, Amnesty International said today.

Protests, at times violent, erupted on 23 February in the capital Niamey and several other towns following the announcement of the provisional results of the 21 February presidential election runoff. Protesters also set up barricades in Niamey’s streets which were then removed by security forces. The Minister of Public Safety said in statement on television two people were killed in this tense context. The circumstances of these deaths and the identity of the victims have not been clarified so far. Rioters and protesters vandalized the house of journalist Moussa Kaka, a local correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI) on 24 February. Public buildings and private properties were also damaged in the unrest.

“Restraint is needed from all parties in an already tense situation. We call on authorities in Niger to investigate the deaths, prosecute those responsible in fair trials, and also to take all necessary measures to enable people to exercise their right to peaceful protest,” said Ousmane Diallo, Amnesty International West Africa researcher.

“Journalists must be able to do their work and the population has a right to be informed. All reasonable measures must be taken to protect media professionals and the freedom of expression in Niger.” 

Mohamed Bazoum of the ruling party was declared the winner against the opposition candidate Mahamane Ousmane.  The latter contested the results and proclaimed himself the winner.
In the aftermaths of the protests, more than 470 individuals including members of the opposition and their supporters have been arrested.  Amnesty International calls on authorities to respect fair trial rights of the accused and immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily arrested.

Internet has been shut down in Niger since 24 February. Authorities and telecommunication companies have not yet publicly communicated about the disruption of internet services.
Amnesty International spoke to several people in Niamey and Diffa who confirm they are using VPN and satellite technology to circumvent the ban.

A judgement by the ECOWAS Court of Justice regarding internet disruptions in Togo, ruled that access to the internet is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression, that must be protected by law. 

“Authorities and telecommunication companies must immediately reestablish access to internet services, so that people can exercise their right to freedom of expression and information,” said Ousmane Diallo.

“The current internet outage is a clear violation of these rights and in contradiction with international standards and recent rulings by the ECOWAS Court of Justice.”


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